Pulling paid ad spend from Facebook and Instagram had no significant impact on Starling Bank’s traffic, engagement or awareness levels, according to the bank’s digital brand manager.
Starling Bank announced last week that it would boycott those platforms until parent company Meta cracks down on financial fraudsters who use its advertising services to target users. However, the bank had already halted advertising on Facebook and Instagram in December, after a gradual decline in its investment.
“Obviously we’ll be watching that. But for now, we’re very comfortable that it hasn’t caused a noticeable drop,” Rachel Kerron, head of brand at Starling Bank, told Marketing Week.
In fact, December saw the fintech business reach an all-time high of brand awareness, it claims, with a score of 71.
Like most startups, Starling Bank was “heavily dependent” on digital and social media advertising in its early years, Kerrone says. But with the brand now investing heavily in TV advertising and other channels above the internet, the impact of digital technology has declined.
“We have gone from being a startup to a high growth company. As you go through those different parts of your journey, different marketing channels work better than others.”
“The first two years, we were so reliant on digital advertising because we weren’t doing any TV. We’ve turned that around now, and certainly over the past two to three years, we’ve focused a lot on those channels that are above the line.”
Starling Bank, founded in 2014, now has more than 2.7 million accounts, including 475,000 accounts for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The brand launched its first TV campaign in 2019 as it pursued its ambition to become a household name, and has since launched multiple TV campaigns. The bank last week launched a new campaign targeting small business owners as it looks to expand its 7% share of the UK SME market.
Last year, the brand also invested heavily in a major product campaign that includes outdoor advertising and radio.
“This dilution of presence across so many channels has made more of a difference than we did in the early days,” Kerrone says.
“Never say never, but certainly since we’re standing right now we’re not noticing a drop, and obviously we feel it was the right thing to do.”
In CEO Anne Bowden’s annual letter, she outlined how Starling Bank is urging digital platforms to offer additional layers of fraud prevention.
If these organizations are not transparent with us, we do not want to work with them.
Rachel Kerron, Starling Bank
In August, Google took a step to stop accepting ads from financial services companies unless they could prove they were authorized by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or qualify for some limited exemptions, which Boden described as “welcome, if prolonged. Waiting for it, a step forward.
But while Meta indicated in December that it was working with TechUK’s Online Fraud Steering Group to introduce similar processes to prevent scammers from advertising on its platforms, details of when and how that would happen were not confirmed. The bank said it is now refusing to advertise on Facebook and Instagram until that happens.
“It cannot be right that these platforms profit from crime and yet remain outside the reach of the law,” Boden said.
Kerrone explains the decision, saying, “The integrity of the brand is really important to us. Therefore, in order to protect our customers, we felt that we could no longer pay to advertise on a platform along with fraudsters who are after our customers’ savings and those of other banks.”
Kerrone adds that some platforms, such as TikTok, have been “more receptive” to Starling’s views on fraudulent ads and are more transparent about their plans.
“This was very different from Meta, which was completely non-committal about their operations. Different platforms deal with it in different ways, but for us, transparency is one of the things that really matters. And if these organizations are not transparent with us, we don’t want to work with them.”
Meta said last week that it has committed to introducing a new qualification process this year that will require UK regulated financial services to be licensed by the FCA before ads can run on its platforms.
“Promoting financial scams is against our policies and we dedicate significant resources to addressing this industry-wide issue both on and off our platforms,” a Meta spokesperson said.
With the revelation that Facebook’s name has changed to Meta and its intent to be seen as a “metaverse first” company, Starling’s Boden hopes the business won’t be tracked aside from introducing additional security measures to guard against fraud.
“While Facebook [Meta] It might hold all kinds of promises for the future, and I really hope its focus on the metaverse doesn’t become a distraction from doing what’s right today, here and now in the UK in 2022.”